The Australia-England rivalry is the oldest among all the other rivalries in the history of the game as it goes back to 1876. These two nations have been the part of several ‘first-evers’ in cricket; July 17 is the day that saw English cricketer Arthur Shrewsbury become the first man to reach 1,000 runs in Test cricket. Shrewsbury attained the feat in the opening Test of the 1893 Ashes at the Lord’s. The same match saw the first-ever declaration made in a Test. A total of 124 years have passed and a declaration has become a key part in the longest format and captains who have mastered the art of strategic declarations are bound to have positive results.
The initial hurdles
This match was going to be the first contest between England and Australia on the English soil without the presence of the great man, WG Grace. The renowned all-rounder had to miss the game due to an injured finger. In his absence, Andrew Stoddart captained the side and the eleventh place was given to Wilf Flowers, who returned to the international side after a long gap of six years.
The match was held at the Mecca of Cricket, Lord’s and the fast wicket of the ground would naturally suit the home bowlers. However, it had poured cats and dogs the previous day and although it was known that the field would get better with time, it was not clear for the new captain if he must choose to bowl or bat, on winning the toss.
The stand-in captain Stoddart won the toss and opted to bat first.
Arthur Shrewsbury’s milestone
Shrewsbury, who was seven runs away from etching his name forever in the history books of Test cricket, walked in with the temporary captain Stoddart to open the innings for England. In no time, Shrewsbury recorded 1,000 Test runs and became the first-ever cricketer to score 1,000 First-Class runs. Charlier Turner, who knocked out six off the 11 English batsmen on Day One at the Lord’s, made his first breakthrough early in the innings. He removed Stoddart at 29 for 1 and soon after that he dismissed the one-down batsman Billy Gunn and left England at 31- for 2.
Although England were not expected to make more than 150 runs, they eventually ended their innings at 334 runs in 125 overs. Perhaps a little credit did go to the dropped catches, but it was a great deal to watch England pile up so many runs. The two architects of England’s extraordinary innings were Shrewsbury and Stanley Jackson. Shrewsbury batted for four hours and ten minutes making 106, and Jackson used only an hour and three-quarters in scoring 91.
At stumps on Day 1, Australia were 33 for 2, still 301 runs behind England.
The match changing stand…
On day 2, even if the wicket recovered well from the rain, it had made batting very difficult for the Australians. England’s pacer Bill Lockwood, making full use of the conditions, controlled the Australians incredibly. The visitors struggled so much to keep the scorecard ticking that in the first hour they managed to add only 38 runs. With just 75 runs on the board, Australia’s half of the players were already back to the pavilion.
After the batting collapse, Syd Gregory and Harry Graham were at the crease. Initially, the runs came in slowly but they had begun to frustrate the opposition with their quick running between the wickets. By lunch of Day two, the duo had added 120 runs and that slowly helped Australia return into the game. Putting their stand into perspective, Graham and Gregory’s partnership of 142 runs for the sixth wicket completely altered the course of the match. Lockwood once again stepped up with a wicket just when England needed it. He broke the stand, when Australia were at 217, with the wicket of Gregory. Soon after the new batsman William Bruce joined Graham in the middle, the latter completed a faultless hundred and saved Australia from follow-on.
Eventually, Australia’s innings was wrapped up at 269 runs in 114.1 overs. The England’s captain, Stoddart once again struggled against the bowling of Turner and McLeod, Gunn and Shrewsbury raised the score to 113 before the close of play on Day two.
Test cricket’s declaration debut
As the time passed on day 3, Shrewsbury and Gunn produced some flawless cricket and brought up a stand of 150 runs for the second wicket. Once again rain played spoilsport and stopped the play for a few hours. While Shrewsbury aimed to have the unique merit of scoring twin centuries in an Ashes match, he was bowled by Australia’s medium pacer, George Giffen.
Following the dismissals of Shrewsbury and Gunn, England faced yet another batting collapse. From 195 for 3, England went six-down for only 198 runs. England’s lower-order batsman Ted Wainwright added some power to the scoreboard with his contribution of 26 runs and that took the score to 234 for 8. The rains returned and prevented the start of play at its usual time. Shortly afterwards, England’s stand-in Captain Andrew Stoddart became the first-ever skipper to declare an innings in a Test match. Soon after that, preparations were made for Australia to bat for the second time. They needed exactly 300 runs from 225 minutes. However, the rain did not permit the play to resume and the Test had to end as a draw.